What do you believe?

“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”
― Gandhi

Some of you will be familiar with this quote by Mahatma Gandhi. Some of you will have heard other variants of it for example in the recent excellent book by Marie Forleo – Everything is Figureoutable. The variants often end the quote differently but they all start with “your beliefs become your thoughts”. Thoughts then go on to drive our feelings, our actions, our habits and our results.

All seems very straight forward and easy doesn’t it? If we get the right beliefs then everything will follow. Simple. Or is it?

Do you actually know what your beliefs are? They may have been “inherited” from your parents or other people around you e.g. there is never enough money so you must always save everything you can. You may have a belief that was previously true and based on scientific fact but is no longer the case. A great example of this is the knowledge we now have about climate change and the impact of certain chemicals on the environment. 30 years ago, plastic was hailed as a great invention – now most of us are doing everything we can to reduce our use of it. You may also have beliefs that you have learned through experience e.g. roller-coasters are terrifying and make you sick. Other people will have the exact opposite belief.

Beliefs may have served you well once. For example, if you grew up in a very strict family you may have learnt as a child to keep very quiet and not to express your opinions. As an adult, trying to succeed in the workplace, this will not be a helpful belief.

So step 1 is to work out what you actually believe. If you are having thoughts or behaviours that are not serving you – work backwards and try and understand what the belief is that is driving them. Write down as many beliefs as you can.

Beliefs may be about other people or things or, quite commonly, may be about ourselves. During my own coaching journey I learned to change many negative beliefs I held about myself. I believed I wasn’t confident; I wasn’t clever enough; I wasn’t popular; I couldn’t maintain a healthy weight; no-one loved me; I didn’t have enough money to do what I wanted…. I had a long list!  While I had these beliefs I was constantly self-sabotaging myself and holding myself small. I talked myself out of my dreams and protecting myself from failing by never really trying.

When we have limiting or negative beliefs our brains are brilliant at constantly serving up evidence that they are true. If you believe that you are not popular you will constantly notice all the times that you are not invited somewhere, or someone doesn’t message you or contact you. This reinforces the belief and will often lead to you withdrawing from your friends and social life even more and then there will be even more evidence you aren’t popular. However, if you believe that people do like you and that they are just busy sometimes, then you won’t mind contacting people first; you will expect that they will be slow in replying sometimes and you will organise some of your own events and probably just ask to go to anything you have been missed out from as you will assume it was an error and not deliberate.

The actual facts in both scenarios are the same – the impact on the individual and the resultant actions are completely different – purely because of the different beliefs that are held.

So how do you change a belief?

Step 1 – Write down the belief – use the tips above to identify them

Step 2- Cross it out and write down what you would like to believe instead

Step 3 – Repeat it to yourself regularly (a lot). Write it on post-it notes and put it where you will see it regularly.

Step 4 – Start acting as if the new belief was true – because it is.

This might sound overly simple but it works. I know it does because I have done it and I continue to do it. I still find beliefs that are not serving me and I am constantly working to change them. Noticing them is the first step – if you are having thoughts that you don’t want or are behaving in a way that is sabotaging you – then the chances are you have a limiting belief that you can change for one that will help you achieve your goals.

If you want help identifying and changing your beliefs then please contact me via here.

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